Teaching Little Ones About God

When I was teaching preschool, a mother of a four-year-old boy asked me when she should talk to her son about God. Since I was teaching in a Christian preschool, the question surprised me. And since I was recently married with no children, I couldn’t speak from experience.  I can’t remember exactly what I told her, but I know I assured her that her son was ready to learn simple spiritual truths, and that she could certainly talk to her son about God. Now that I am a mother of three grown children, as well as a grandmother, the answer would roll off my tongue: You begin teaching your children about God from the day they are born.

It begins in the rocking chair—singing Jesus Loves Me while feeding your precious pink bundle, or praying over your infant son as you tuck him into his baby blue swaddle.  It continues with boardbooks and picture books about God, Jesus, and the Bible. As babies grow into toddlers, outdoor walks give many opportunities to talk about nature and our Creator—the sun in God’s big sky, the pretty flowers He makes, and the birds who chirp His praises.

Time spent in the car running errands can include praise songs for little ones to listen to. Mealtime prayers and   bedtime stories are other opportunities for children to learn about God throughout the day.The key to teaching your little ones about God is to be consistent and to incorporate prayer and Bible stories into their daily routines. Children thrive on routine, and once you establish a regular time, your children will not let you skip no matter how tired you may be!

One of my books for little ones is The One Year Book of Devotions for Preschoolers (Tyndale). This small, chunky book contains 366 short devos for little ones. Each daily reading includes a very short, age-appropriate devotional, a Bible verse, and a short rhyming prayer. This book is a part of Tyndale’s  Little Blessings® line, and is illustrated with the adorable art of Elena Kucharik, the creator of the Care Bears. 

I am thrilled when parents tell me how much their children like Devotions for Preschoolers, and how they read it over and over again. But another blessing is that the parents who read the book to their children are also taking in some good reminders for themsevles. When God’s truth is in simple language, it is often the most powerful.

It’s never too early to talk to your children about God, and it’s never too late to begin the discipline of having daily devotions with your children. 

Love your little blessings. Hug and kiss them often. Pray with them every day.

CRYSTAL

(It’s Not Such) a Brave New World

[Part I of 2 parts on the Sexualization of Our Children: Entertainment Media]

The phrase, “It’s a brave new world,” is often used to extol the virtues of our ever-changing culture. Technological advances of the past 100 years seem to dwarf advances made during the previous 1000 years. Even changes in the past ten years have our heads spinning. (On a personal note, I’m still struggling with using a smart phone that often seems smarter than I am!) Adults and children are bombarded with a variety of media methods and content.

But it’s not all brave…or even good. The content of much of our entertainment media has been sexualized – either overtly or covertly. And our children are not immune to its influence.

I recently participated in a webinar conducted by Elizabeth Smith, professor in the Children’s Ministry and Youth Department of Moody Bible Institute. She offered these statistics:

–  8- to18-year-olds average 7 hours and 38 minutes daily in using entertainment media.

–  Since they multi-task (which means they often use more than one medium at a time), they actually consume 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content in those 7 hours and 38 minutes.

–  Sexual content appears in 64% of all television programs.

–  Music videos contain an average of 93 sexual situations per hour.

A report from The Child Study Center of New York University notes that we are raising a generation of “super-sexualized” young people. Children around the country are being exposed to an onslaught of sexual messages that come at them with the speed of light from all directions and on an on-going and daily basis. They can come from print media, television, movies, videos, music, the Internet, the child’s neighborhood or home. Even news stories about the latest political scandal.

Exposure to sexual messages may delay emotional, spiritual, and social development and result in immaturity and/or irreparable damage. All because a child is so impressionable.

Our children are in the cross-hairs of an entertainment industry that does not have their best interests at heart. Rather than wave the white flag of surrender, we must be intentional about our response.

Smith offers the following suggestions:

1.  Promote truth in our own lives.

Rather than allow the culture to make us defensive or apologetic, we must use every opportunity to live out the truth of God’s Word in our own lives. Children don’t just listen to our words, they watch our actions, too. If the media we take in is too “mature” for children, we need to ask ourselves if it is appropriate for a child of God of any age!

2.  Proclaim truth in the lives of children.

Take every opportunity to proclaim truth to children. Be alert to teachable moments described in Deuteronomy 11:18-20.

3.  Deal with the sexualization of children from a biblical foundation.

Theological concepts are not always easy for adults to process, but there are ways to present biblical truth to children. Process the following questions for yourself, then consider how to introduce these questions to your children:

–       What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

–       What does it mean that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit?

 How can we care for our bodies to reflect this truth?

 –       What does Scripture say about sexual purity – physically and in our thought life?

Of course, there’s one more thing we can do – and it’s the first and most important thing we can do. We can pray for our children.

We can’t afford to be ostriches with our heads in the sand. It’s not always a brave, new world. Sometimes it’s a sad, depraved world. But we have the comfort and assurance of knowing that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4)!

How are you building a biblical foundation into your children?

Distracted Living

We’ve all heard about the dangers of distracted driving, but what about distracted living? Have you ever thought about the dangers of that? As a champion multi-tasker, it’s one of my constant challenges, but sometimes it requires a bit of a jolt to get my attention.

That jolt came for me a few weeks ago as I was driving back from a youth drama class that I was teaching. The class was held in a church about an hour away from my home and as I pulled out of the parking lot, in typical multi-tasker fashion, I decided that it would be a good idea to catch up with a dear friend living out of state as I drove along. I punched her number into the phone and soon after made my way onto the expressway.

As we chatted away, catching up on our lives, I noticed that my GPS was trying to talk to me, and it kept telling me to get off at the next exit. But having driven this same route before, I happened to remember how on some occasions the GPS had told me to get off of the expressway only to have me get right back on again a few miles up the road. A meaningless detour. So despite my GPS’ incessant pleading for me to get off at every exit I passed, I continued driving along and chatting to my friend, confident that I knew where I was going.

It wasn’t until I hung up the phone a good 45+ minutes later that I noticed a sign saying “Morrow County.” Morrow County? How could that be? I was supposed to be close to home by now, and having been to Morrow County on a couple of occasions with my storytelling work, I knew that it was nearly 2 hours from my home! That’s when it hit me! I had spent the last 45+ minutes driving in the wrong direction. I had gotten on the expressway going south instead of north. So now I was not 15 minutes from home, I was about 2 hours from home!

This time I did obey the GPS and got off at the nearest exit (which didn’t come for miles!) and turned myself around. I felt a mixture of anger, frustration and sadness at the impending drive before me after an already long day, but more than anything I felt mad at myself for being so stupid. It was almost embarrassing having to call my husband and tell him that I would no longer be home at 5pm, but 7pm instead. And of course, it was even more shameful when he asked me, “What happened? Didn’t you follow the GPS?”

For the next two hours, I thought about my own stupidity (I mean you would have thought that after 45 minutes of the GPS asking me to get off that I might have at least stopped to consider the suggestion!) But more than that I felt like there was a greater lesson to be learned. It was as if I could hear God saying to me, “How many times do you do the same thing to Me? Maybe I’d like to give you some direction or let you know that you’re headed in the wrong direction, but sometimes you’re so distracted that you can’t even hear Me.”

And it’s true. A lot of times I get so set on all that I’m doing that I don’t take time to stop and listen. I’m moving so fast and doing so many things at once that it never even occurs to me to consider if I’m moving in the right direction or not. Our culture has fed us the lie that more is better — more stuff, more activity, more all at once. Our enemy must smile just thinking about it — because he knows if he can get us so wrapped up in just moving and keep our eyes off of the direction we’re moving in, then he has won the battle.

In college I had a quote by Socrates posted to the bulletin board above my desk. It said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This was my reminder to not get so wrapped up in college life that I didn’t stop to ask myself: “Is this who I want to be? Is this what I want to be doing?” It was a reminder to pause. To reflect. To look and listen. Not to let life pass me by without considering how I was living it.

As you can see from my story above, I still need that reminder. And in a world that keeps us all spinning faster and faster, I think we all do. I hope you will not deduce from this post that I think all activity or even all multi-tasking is bad (although believe me, there truly is something to be said for single-minded focus!) Instead, I hope you will recognize the dangers of going full-speed ahead in the direction that you believe is best, distracted by a myriad of tasks and responsibilities, without ever once stopping to listen to your internal GPS, the Holy Spirit. Don’t do what I did and ignore His voice telling me to turn around because I was too distracted by another conversation to pay Him any mind. Rather think about the things that distract you and see which of those you might lay aside to be able to listen better.

You can be sure that I learned my lesson that day. After turning around and heading for home (in the right direction this time!), other than calling my husband to tell him I’d be late, I kept my phone turned off. I wanted to hear the GPS, see the signs, and be sure that I didn’t set myself up for any more lengthy detours. I’m still working this out in my day to day life, but I do know one thing — I don’t want the Holy Spirit to have to compete for my attention. I don’t want to be engaged in distracted living.

 

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

In the past few weeks, through the wonder of ultrasound technology, I’ve “met” grandchildren #2 and #3 who will join our family later this year. Grandchild #1 (that’s him in the photo), who’s nearly five now, will get to be both a big brother and a cousin.

Yes, both of our daughters are expecting, and just six or seven weeks apart! We’re all feeling excited and grateful!

One of my daughters is using an app on her phone to learn how the baby is developing each week. As she read off how tiny the baby was (only as big as a blueberry) yet all that was going on in that tiny body, I thought of these verses:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.–Psalm 139:3-16

How completely amazing! And how comforting to know that God knows our family’s new little ones intimately already!

The Bible also says that “grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children (Proverbs 17:6). Well, I’m not aged–yet! But I hope for a long life and to be a good grandparent, to know all my grandchildren well, to pray for them and encourage them. And to pray for and encourage their parents too!

I want them all to place and keep their hope and trust solidly in the Father and in Jesus the Son, to be born of the Spirit and to stay in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), following the Lord’s paths all the days of their lives.

I want that for your children and grandchildren too. All of us here at Christian Children’s Authors do. It’s one reason we’re blessed to write books and teach and blog.

We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.–Psalm 78:4-7

Want to see something amazing? Watch this short talk and video from Alexander Tsiaras, “From Conception to Birth,” created with visualization software that enabled him to “paint” the human anatomy using volume data.

Scripture: NLT

DIANE

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© 2012, Diane Stortz